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The Road to Indy – Week 3

October 17, 2013

Even with just over half the league playing on Saturday, we gained a significant amount of insight into where these division races are headed.

THE LEADERS

Ohio State 6-0 (2-0) – The Buckeyes didn’t play, but still sit atop the leaders and hold the tiebreaker over Wisconsin.  A Badgers loss to Northwestern would’ve unofficially locked up the division for the Buckeyes, but in my opinion that’s already happened anyways.

Wisconsin 4-2 (2-1) – The Badgers looked like the Big Ten’s second best team by throttling Northwestern in Madison.  With no Michigan, MSU, or Nebraska on the schedule, I could see the Badgers coasting the rest of the way to a 7-1 conference record, but still on the outside looking in for the Big Ten title game.  A likely BCS bowl wouldn’t hurt as a consolation however.

Indiana 3-3 (1-1) – Last week I said that I had to officially still discuss the Hoosiers since they hadn’t lost a game and still had a chance at the title technically, though not in practice.   After their loss in East Lansing, the Hoosier would now need to run the table to end up in Indy.  With games at Michigan (this week), at Ohio State and at Wisconsin on the table, that’s just not in the cards.  In fact, its more likely that Indiana fails to get bowl eligible than it is that they end up in Indy for the championship game.

The Pick for Indy: Until they lose, it absolutely has to be Ohio State.  Wisconsin’s victory over Northwestern will keep this interesting for a few more weeks, but the Buckeyes still have to lose twice in order for the Badgers to get the nod.  That’s possible, but highly unlikely.

THE LEGENDS

Nebraska 5-1 (2-0) – The Cornhuskers looked solid in a 44-7 trashing of Purdue in West Lafayette.  The fact that they did it once again without Taylor Martinez playing was impressive.  With no Ohio State or Wisconsin on the schedule and MSU and Northwestern at home, I continue to think the Cornhuskers have the easiest path to Indy.

Michigan State 5-1 (2-0) – MSU kept pace with Nebraska atop the legends with a relatively easy victory over Indiana in East Lansing.  The Spartans early season offense woes seem less of an issue now, making MSU a very real threat to win the division.  This week’s home game against Purdue should be a relatively easy victory before the Spartans play the meat of their schedule – including Michigan, at Nebraska and at Northwestern in consecutive weeks.  For now though, the Spartans are still the co-favorites along with Nebraska. 

Michigan 5-1 (1-1) – Michigan spent Saturday night trying to find a way to give the game to the undermanned Nittany Lions.  They finally found a way to do so in the 4th overtime.  Every flaw that Michigan needed to be concerned about coming in was realized.  Turnovers, inability to run the football, and lack of a killer instinct all played a role in allowing Penn State to first get ahead and then hang around long enough to tie things at the end.  For Michigan the only good news is that this was a loss out of the division, but they can longer afford a loss to MSU, Nebraska or Northwestern if they want to win this division.  The winner will likely have no more than 2 conference losses, so Michigan has to win those 3 games against the other contenders in order to hold onto the tiebreakers if it gets to that point.  

Northwestern 4-2 (0-2) – The Wildcats failed to rebound from their tough loss to Ohio State at home and were soundly beat by Wisconsin 35-6.  Though Northwestern isn’t technically eliminated, especially since both losses are outside the division, they will now need to run the table in order to have a chance at winning the division.  With a game at Nebraska plus Michigan and MSU still coming to Evanston, it will be a tough mountain for the Wildcats to climb.  They aren’t finished yet, but it’s amazing how in two weeks they went from potentially division favorite to needing a miracle to end up in Indy.   

Iowa 4-2 (1-1) – I know that technically Iowa sits ahead of Northwestern in the standings, but this is about likelihood to end up in Indianapolis, not the current standings.  The truth is, I’m only keeping Iowa here as a courtesy because they still only have 1 loss.  But with games at Nebraska and Ohio State, as well as home games against Northwestern, Michigan and Wisconsin – this isn’t going to end well.  Given the schedule, the “gimme” win I see left is Purdue, and the Hawkeyes could be underdogs in the remaining 5.  

The Pick for Indy:  At this point Nebraska and MSU hold the lead, and there’s no reason to pick against either of them, especially given the schedule.  I’m sticking with the Cornhuskers, mostly because they get the Spartans in Lincoln.  

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